VETERANS DAY REMEMBRANCE — Alexi Mendoza prepares to place an American flag on the tombstone of a lower valley veteran as part of a Sunnyside High School Leadership Class’ Veteran’s Day project at the Lower Valley Memorial Gardens Nov. 11. Mendoza’s brother-in-law is currently a Marine stationed at 29 Palms, California.

SUNNYSIDE — The morning quiet at Lower Valley Memorial Gardens was broken only by the soft voices of Sunnyside High School students placing a symbolic number of small U.S. flags on the headstones of veterans in observance of Veteran’s Day.

A mixture of small plastic and cloth flags spread across the cemetery landscape were carefully placed by the girls bundled up to protect against the morning chill.

“We didn’t realize how many veterans were buried here,” volunteer SHS senior Alexi Mendoza recounted.

Knowing how many veterans were buried in the Van Belle Road cemetery caused her to think of her brother-in-law Taran Perez, a U.S. Marine stationed a 29 Palms, California.

“He is in the infantry… We’re all very proud of him,” she proclaimed. “He was stationed in Afghanistan last year. This makes his service very real.”

Mendoza was one of five students, led by Association Student Body President Olivia Puente. “We typically hold an all-school assembly the day before Veterans Day,” Puente explained, whose uncle served in Iraq.

She conveyed they normally invite the veterans to breakfast and host a program to honor their military service. “But this year we can’t do what is normal,” she said.

“Placing the flags was a kind of service we could do that could be of reverence to the veterans,” Puente stated.

“My grandpa is buried over there,” Kaydi Porter expressed.

Natalia Compos echoed that her uncles served in the Marine Corps.

Celeste Alvarado wasn’t sure of any military service in her family, she indicated it felt good to be doing something of service.

As part of a COVID-19 alternative to the Veteran’s Day programs, the leadership class, along with Bon Vino Bistro and Bakery co-sponsored a free coffee, pastry, an appreciative card and rose to veterans visiting the establishment.

A video saluting the veterans was pre-recorded to present to students,” Leadership Class Advisor Tina Peabody said. The video was later posted to the school district’s website and other social media outlets.

Julia Hart can be reached at 509-837-4500, ext. 123 or at

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